Pro tip: A medium difficulty skill chain in Tetris Attack

Today we're going to look at one of the slightly more advanced skill chains you can do in Tetris Attack / Puzzle League, something that I'm going to call a Delayed Skill Chain.

Starting with this puzzle here

we first slide the Green Tile to the right so that it falls down and creates a 4-combo

Then, moving quickly, we move the first Yellow Tile over so that it falls on the Green Tiles as they clear

Then we (quickly!) move the second Yellow Tile over to the gap between the two that are already there

So that it falls to where the Green Tiles were before the other Yellow Tiles fall

So when they do fall, you get a quick chain!

And since it's a little bit easier to see the timing in video form, I've prepared a short clip for you

Pro tip: Tetris is (usually) balanced

It's really easy in competitive Tetris, especially if you're matched up against someone who's at about the same skill level that you are, to feel like the game comes down to the selection of pieces you get. But, in most games of Tetris, both players get the same pieces. It really comes down to who can put them in place the fastest.

Which is kind of hard to wrap your head around, I know, so I prepared the video below where I use the same controller input for both controllers and play a short round of competitive Tetris.

It's actually pretty illuminating. Everything's the same: pieces dropped, garbage sent, all of it.

Of course there are probably variants of Tetris that don't make everything equal like this, but you probably don't want to play those.

Pro tip: The Tetris T-Spin

In Tetris, you occasionally will have to maneuver pieces so that they fit in spaces where it doesn't initially look like they're going to fit.

Like this T-piece, for example.

It would totally fit in that hole on the left column if some of those pieces weren't in the way.

But if you let it get partway in

And then rotate it at the last second, it slides into place

Which is easier to show in animated .gif form

This is a pretty useful maneuver, since it lets you slip those T-pieces in places where they wouldn't normally go.

Pro tip: getting more out of your portable system's sound system

As far back as the original Game Boy hardware, Nintendo's portable systems could output stereo sound. But all of the systems have a very poor delivery system: tiny, tinny speakers.


Most of their systems (save for the Game Boy Advance SP) came with the 1/8'' phono plug on the bottom for headphones. Which instantly makes the game sound better (it's how I first discovered that the final battle in Donkey Kong '94 had music mixed in stereo), and is fine, but I like to take it one step further.

I went out and purchased this from my local Radio Shack:

It has the phono plug on one end, and the left/right RCA plugs on the other end.

What does that mean?

It means that I can plug the output of my portable game system directly into my surround-sound system.

And that means that playing games like Elite Beat Agents and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow takes on a whole new dimension.

Pro tip: evolving certain Pokémon the easy way

In the main Pokémon games you capture and train creatures to build your ultimate fighting team, and when certain conditions are met, they change into more powerful forms, called 'evolution' in-game.

A few have the rather unusual condition that you have to find someone to trade them with, and as a result of the trading process they will evolve into their more powerful forms.

So, you had to track down someone who had a copy of the game and negotiate a trade where you likely traded monsters, let them evolve, and then traded back so you could have your original creature, now powered up.

But! There's a better way!

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl have introduced the ability to trade over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. You put up something and what you'll take for it and then wait for someone else to take your offer, kind of like a Pokémon trading post. If what you put up there doesn't get taken, then you can withdraw your request and try again.

But! What if you put up one of the Pokémon that evolve via trading? Then request something that's impossible to get via normal means (such as a Level 1 Blastoise) to ensure that nobody will actually be able to trade with you? Then immediately take your original Pokémon back?

It evolves! Just like you had traded it with someone.

And you have, sort of. You've traded with yourself.

Pro tip: Extending your portable system's battery life part 4

This power-saving tip is pretty much for the DS guys only, sorry PSP folks.

If you check out the bottom of your Nintendo DS, you'll see another slot. This is where stuff like the Rumble Pak or the Guitar Hero add-on goes. You can also toss in your older Game Boy Advance games and play them on your newfangled system. The benefit here is that when you're playing your GBA games, only one of the screens is being used, saving you precious wattage.

The only problem is that Game Boy Advance games are getting hard to find nowadays. So unless you've stockpiled a few (*cough*), you might not have a whole lot (or anything) in your current library to cram in there.

That's about the time you're going to want to visit your local video game resale shop.

Which we'll discuss another day.

Pro tip: Extending your portable system's battery life part 3

If you're without power in the daytime, you might consider turning off the backlight on your portable system. If you have sufficient light (i.e. the Sun) shining down on your system, then you have all the illumination you need, which will save precious watts to power your system a bit longer.

Of course, systems like the DS and Game Boy Advance almost need a backlight because they're just so dark without one, but direct sunlight is actually pretty playable.

Pro tip: Extending your portable system's battery life part 2

Today's method to increase battery life: turn off the Wi-Fi.

I fully understand that when you're in a power-outage situation, or just a long car trip, that you want to play games with the other people around you.

But, using that extra feature puts a bit of strain on the battery, and will cause it to run down faster. Not such a big deal if you have a power source handy, but once power becomes a limited resource, then you're going to want every second of power you can have.

Pro tip: Extending your portable system's battery life part 1

This week's pro tips are inspired by my 6-day (and counting) power outage due to some freakish ice storm.

Today's bit of advice: Turn down the speakers.

This tip dates back to the old spinach-green original Game Boy days. Yes, your portable system can crank out some pretty loud sounds, but that also drains the battery slightly faster. Better would be to turn down the speakers to a barely audible level, or better yet, turn them off completely.

Yeah, you'll miss some of the sounds, but you'll eke out a bit more playtime from your device, and you'll need every precious minute of power in an extended outage.

Pro tip: lots of lives in Sonic Rush

Sonic Rush isn't really that hard of a game, but you will run through lots of lives. This is mostly because Sonic moves at Ludicrous Speed and if you're not expecting a pitfall (which you won't your first few times through the stages) you just can't react fast enough to avoid it. The solution? Throw more lives (a.k.a. chances) at the problem. But, Sonic only starts with three lives. That's a problem.

Or is it?

One of the neat things about this game is that it allows you to go back to stages that you've already beaten to get powerups, like Chaos Emeralds or extra lives.

You should be able to complete the first stage pretty easily, since it's kind of the intro to the game. Along the way, you'll be able to pick up 100 rings with little effort, the stage is loaded with them.

Once you have your 100 rings (which, after running through the stage a few times shouldn't take more than about 45 seconds), assuming you've already cleared the area, you can just press Start and then choose to leave the stage, and you get to keep the lives you got. Just rinse and repeat until you have as many lives as you want.

You'll notice, though, that the counter in the bottom-left corner stops at 9. You can get way more lives than that, though. They show up on the Overworld map screen.

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